There’s no easy way to make money doing the things you love. Whether you’re into photography or painting, ball games or biking, you’re going to find plenty of competition for the money that people are willing to spend on that activity. But earning money from a passion isn’t a zero-sum game, and not all competition is equal. Only a small number of the people who enjoy taking pictures, for example, take pictures that are sellable. Only a small number of those people will even try to sell them — and an even smaller number will know how to sell them.
Combine your talent and expertise with knowledge of the right sales channels for your works and you can make money doing something you currently do for fun. It might not be anything like as hard as you think.
Ebay is not the most obvious place to look when you’re hoping to sell your art. It’s best known as the world’s largest yard sale, a place to look for used items that other people don’t want. But the site does have a section for artists to sell their own work and it’s one that’s remarkably effective. Artists can sell just about anything they’ve made themselves, including paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture and textile art. It’s where a number of artists have made their first steps as professionals and discovered that they really could turn a love for making pictures into a full-time job.
Listing your items is easy. Anyone can sign up, place their works for auction and hope to make a sale. Ebay isn’t a place to push avant garde works or edgy art but it is possible to sell relatively small, commercial pieces that are priced at less than $50. Those kinds of revenues won’t make you rich but they can give you an audience who will pass on your name. It’s an easy way in to selling your art.
Ebay is competitive and you’ll have to hustle to find buyers. Tell your friends that you have works on the site and ask them to tell their friends. Use the Groups and Discussion pages to join the community; they will include buyers who will want to know about your offers. Don’t expect to sell works for huge sums but think of it as a way to push small, unchallenging works of popular subjects like cats, dogs and angels.
If Ebay is a yard sale with a little art section, Etsy is a craft fair with a little vintage section. There’s no bidding here; you set your price and hope to find people who will pay it. The categories range from art and photography to jewelry and home designs.
Like Ebay, listing is easy although there is a greater emphasis on good photography on the sales page. Ebay’s sellers are often happy to settle for snaps of their products; Etsy’s are more likely to put some effort into choosing backgrounds, posing their works and often even placing them on models. Your creative efforts won’t end when your piece is complete.
What Etsy makes very easy, though, is your entry into a community of people who appreciate art and craft. The people you’ll be chatting with in the forums will be specialists in painting, modeling or metalwork. List on Etsy and you’ll already feel that you have crossed the line from hobbyist to artist.
Like Ebay, the competition on Etsy is tight — and it’s also high quality. On the auction site, buyers have to browse around to find items they might like; on Etsy, works that are at least as beautiful as yours are never more than a click away. Again, the forums and “teams,” targeted groups that cover a particular topic, will help. Sellers are buyers as well as competitors and they will pass your name around if they like what they see. They’ll also give you advice on what’s working on your sales pages.
Pricing will be tricky too. On Ebay, the buyers will set the price; on Etsy, you’re going to have to shop around, look at other stores and produce a price that’s competitive and which takes into account the cost of the material and the time involved in the production. Don’t be tempted to cut prices to attract sales though. Sellers usually find that buyers will pay a fair price for work they value.
While anyone can list the results of their craft expertise on Etsy and Ebay, galleries have gatekeepers — which is why they’re so prestigious. There’s a huge difference between creating another store on an online craft site and holding a show in a downtown gallery. And getting in isn’t as hard as it sounds.
Getting your foot in the door is easy. Gallery owners are interested in seeing your work, and they’ll give it a fair review. Draw up a list of the galleries in your area, visit them to see the kinds of work they tend to show and while you’re there ask how you can make an appointment to show your work to the gallery owner. You’ll probably find that you’ll need to call in and fix a time. In many galleries, seizing the opportunity is relatively simple. Making the most of it is a lot harder.
The hard part is persuading the gallery owner to take you on. Remember that galleries only make money if your work sells, when they usually take a commission of 50 percent. If they give time to your work and it doesn’t sell, they’re not making any money.
You’ll need a portfolio of quality work that matches the kinds of art the gallery usually shows — edgy pieces for avant-garde galleries; traditional items for galleries serving more conservative collectors. You’ll need an artist bio that says who you are, and if you’ve managed to win any juried art shows, you’ll be able to prove that you’ve already persuaded your peers and a market that your work is desirable.
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